Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! Review - Mayflower Southampton

Matthew Bourne is a creative genius that in my eyes can do no wrong. Every show he creates is one that takes your breath away and sticks with you long after you leave a theatre. I'm going to be honest and say that I feel incredibly privileged to have seen so many of his shows. But the Nutcracker! was one show that I had yet to tick off that elusive list. The sickly sweet show about whimsical adventures and longing for happiness is one that I can finally say I saw and adored!

Nutcracker! Is currently on at the Mayflower Southampton before continuing on its UK tour and I was invited to see just how sweet this show really was. I opted to bring Max's best friend with me to this one. She is a dancer and I knew that she would be the best judge of how truly magical this show really is for a younger audience (and it didn't disappoint at all!). 

Nutcracker! follows the 130 year old tale of Clara, a young girl who is gifted a nutcracker doll and heads off on a sweet filled adventure. Set to the score by Tchaikovski, it's a timeless score that even the most adverse ballet lover will know and recognise. Whilst I have to be honest and say that previous versions of this I have seen have been fairly generic and quite 'stuffy' in presentation, Matthew Bourne has taken this show and mixed it with a cloud of popping candy and marshmallow fluff to create something absolute spectacular. 

In this version, Clara (Cordelia Braithwaite) is an orphan living in a bleak children's home, under the care of a Miss Hannigan-esque pair of adults and their spoilt children. It's a place that feels cold, heartless, and a somewhere that you would just want to escape. When the Nutcracker (Harrison Dowzell) made his appearance, you felt slightly unnerved with his emotionless expression and his stilted walking, yet when he emerges into a human at the stroke of midnight he transforms into a sculpted handsome gentleman. Yet his eyes are distracted by the spiteful Sugar (Monique Jonas) who wants everything that she sets her eyes on. Including Nutcracker himself. 

Throughout the show you then meet wild and wonderful characters as Clara ventures on her journey for happiness. From the skiers who float across the stage with grace, to the wild sweeties who are bright, colourful, and full of joy. Each character dances in a way that tells the story so perfectly that you forget that not a single word is spoken on stage. It's testament to Bourne's directing that throughout the whole show you are both transfixed and amazed at every tiny detail happening on stage. 

Both the staging at the costumes were breathtaking, with striking pieces and simple sets that just told the story and complemented the dancing perfectly. From the monochrome palette of the opening scene, to the cool blues of the frozen lake, to the bubblegum pink of sweetie land, it was pure joy to watch and enjoy. 

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! is arguably one of the best shows for those needing an introduction to the ballet. With an easy to follow story, charming music, and a visual feast, it is accessible for all and perfect for those young and old. My little sidekick for the night was sat next to me eyes wide, on the edge of her seat, loving each and every moment. And honestly, that's what it's all about. Introducing this beautiful medium of dance to a new audience that can love and absorb it as much as us adults do. 

Nutcracker! is nothing short of a spectacle. It was a creatively joyous celebration of a timeless classic that brought a smile to the face of every audience member. It was extravagant, elegant and altogether entertaining. Bravo Matthew Bourne, you've done it again!

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker is on stage at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until 2/4/2022 and then continuing on a UK tour. 

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